04 June 2007

1732) I Am Critical Of Certain Armenians Because I See Them Not As Armenians But As By-Products Of Ottoman Culture


Memo To Our Pundits
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You will never write a single decent line as long as you think your readers are lesser men, perhaps even naïve dupes like yourself.
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Since we don’t know everything there is to know – no one does – let us agree to listen to one another on the grounds that we may become aware of facts that so far have escaped our perception; and by one another I don’t just mean Armenians and Turks, but also Armenians and Armenians, or rather, Ottomanized Armenians and human beings, who place their humanity above their tribal or partisan loyalties. It is therefore to our advantage to treat our adversaries not as mortal enemies but as future friends.
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Changing our perception of the past is as good as changing the past.
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My writings are perceived by some as anti-Armenian. I reject the label. I am critical of certain Armenians because I see them not as Armenians but as by-products of Ottoman culture.
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What we learn from defeats and failures we may unlearn from victories and successes.
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If the atomic structure of the universe proves the existence of God, the atomic bomb proves the existence of the devil, or the other face of God, the one we pray to every day with the words, “Do no lead us into temptation.”



A good nationalist believes to lie in the name of patriotism is morally superior to speaking the truth.
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When man goes out in search of God, he is sure to come face to face with the devil; and when he speaks or acts in His name, the chances are he does so in the name of the devil.
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We study history not to prove ourselves right and everyone else wrong, but to learn from our blunders.
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Since identity is an abstraction, all kinds of absurd claims are made in its name. Some of these claims may be relatively harmless but others, such as claims of racial, moral, or intellectual superiority, have been the source of much misery, including wars, massacres, and genocides. “I know better,” is very probably one of the most dangerous assertions one can make.
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Those who are most in need of advice are the least receptive to them.
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The Turks and our leaders have combined forces to turn us into pillars of salt.



Reflections
The unstated aim of propaganda is to make you feel good about yourself. Hence its popularity. Literature has no interest in that direction.
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When a charlatan calls me a charlatan, I conclude that (one) he knows the meaning of the word, and (two) he has too large an ego to suspect he may qualify as one.
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To allow a past crime to define your future is to consent being permanently at the mercy of the criminal.
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Jean Francois de la Harpe: “In France, the first day is for admiration, the second for criticism, the third for indifference.” Among Armenians, there are no first days.
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Colette: “If you are incapable of magic, you should stay out of the kitchen.” I suspect what she had in mind was not the kitchen but literature.
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Einstein: “I am a deeply religious nonbeliever.”
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What made Einstein great was his refusal to accept the word of established authority and to reject all obvious answers as final.



On Proud Armenians
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Speaking for myself, I prefer humble Armenians, if only because we have many more reasons to be humble than proud.
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The word denialist is applied to those who refuse to acknowledge the reality of the Genocide. It could also be applied to Armenians who deny the fact of their Ottomanization.
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I was brought up to see religion and patriotism as noble concepts, but I know now that they are noble only when applied to fundamentally decent men. In the hands of a dupe who cannot think for himself, both God and Country may become instruments of intolerance and oppression, and ultimately justifications of war and massacre.
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After accusing me of being a foreign agent, one of my readers identifies himself as “a proud Armenian.” There is a type of chauvinism and paranoia that are unmistakable symptoms of fascism.
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In the presence of someone who identifies himself with a group – be it tribal or religious – I feel like a potential victim, someone who some day, given the right combination of conditions, may be killed in the name of God and Country.
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A “proud Armenian” is not just a single person but a fraction of a lynch mob.



What Is Impossible Cannot Be Desirable
Tolstoy: “Aren’t we all of us flung onto this earth to hate and torment each other?”
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You cannot reason with someone who is infatuated with his own infallibility.
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Since dead-end controversies that are destined to remain unresolved to the end of time have become an integral part of our collective existence and mindset, the chances that we will ever reach a consensus with the Turks are “as dark as the prospects of an honest politician” (Chandler).
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If we assume consensus to be to our mutual advantage, willingness to compromise becomes not only inevitable but also necessary, because the alternative – negotiating without compromise – is not negotiating but imposing one’s will on others. Only the mighty may impose their will on the weak. To those who say, “If we have truth and the world on our side, we might as well have God on our side, and who could be mightier than the Almighty?” May I remind them that the world was on our side in 1915 too, and that what motivates the world is not truth but self-interest. As for God: unlike our pundits, I am more than willing to admit that not being an authority on the subject, I am in no position to make any pronouncements in His name.
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If on the other hand the Turks compromise and make concessions, our side will simply escalate their demands. It follows, our self-righteous and dogmatic defenders of the faith will do their utmost to never resolve our differences with the Turks. Because, if they are ever resolved, they may run out of their favorite subject and may even be condemned to irrelevance -- not a pleasant prospect for monomaniacal megalomaniacs.



Ara Baliozian

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